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Former Calgary fire chief Bruce Burrell dies at 65

Bruce Burrell, whose nine years at the helm of the Calgary Fire Department included directing local emergency efforts during the city’s devastating floods in 2013, has died.

He was 65 years old.

According to an online post from his family, Burrell passed away Monday from complications related to a lung transplant. In 2017, he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

The City of Calgary hired Burrell in 2005 when he was serving as a deputy chief director in Halifax. He was responsible in Halifax for emergency management during the devastation of Hurricane Juan in 2003.

During the 2013 floods of southern Alberta, which forced thousands of Calgarians from their homes, Burrell acted as director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA). Council recognized his efforts following the floods.

Burrell retired in 2014 at the age of 55.

A aerial photo of central calgary shows deep brown water covering the Stampede grounds and neighbourhoods.
In June 2013, a massive storm dumped record amounts of rain on southern Alberta, leading to devastating flooding in Calgary and nearby communities. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Tom Sampson, the former head of CEMA, called Burrell “a good man.”

“His capacity for recall was phenomenal,” Sampson wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“He worked himself to the bone in the 2013 floods … beyond what any person could endure. He allowed me to chase my vision for CEMA … he wanted what was best for Calgary and Alberta.”

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs said on social media it was saddened to share the news of his passing, noting Burrell had been recognized previously as a fire chief of the year.

“Chief Burrell brought a degree of dedication unmatched by many to firefighter safety,” it said. “He will be remembered.”

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